They have the medicine, but the masks? Not so much.

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - With the first H1N1 death hitting the U.S. this week, more people are taking steps to keep themselves and their families safe. While the flu virus has yet to appear in East Texas, drugstores are seeing items disappear from shelves.

Fully stocked days ago, store shelves are now showing obvious signs the H1N1 virus scare has arrived in east Texas.

"People want masks, people want sanitizer gel, and the Tamiflu," said Jeffery Abeldt, owner of Brick Street Pharmacy.

Abeldt saw his supply of face masks sell out Thursday morning.

"We're definitely seeing more fly off the shelf than we have in the last couple months," he said.

Not far behind was the sale of hand sanitizer; all but gone at Brick Street and only available in travel sizes at Target, who's been out of face masks since last weekend.

Dr. Aman Dhillon at the U.T. Health Science Center specializes in occupational medicine and the spread of illnesses. He says the masks disappearing from shelves may not provide as much protection as you think.

"These facemasks usually cover your nose and face and mouth and they're not tight fitting," he said. "Your blow through it and the air still leaks out of it here so it does not provide you complete protection against the virus."

He added that the over the counter surgical masks are only about 68 percent effective in preventing the spread of the virus and aren't to be used alone as a means of staying healthy.

"Washing hands is very important," he said. "Covering yourself with tissue paper when you cough or sneeze is another part."

Staying alive for up to six hours on contaminated surfaces, it's the small steps doctors say are the keys to keep from transmitting the virus.

Currently the closest confirmed case of H1N1 to East Texas has been in Dallas. For those with or considering trying to get a hold of the flu treatment Tamiflu, doctors warn the treatment time is critical. One more note, doctors tell us people who have Tamiflu which is still in good supply sometimes try to take the medication before being infected, as a preventative measure. They say using Tamiflu when you're not sick actually builds up a tolerance to the drug, making it less effective when you do get sick.

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